The cat scarfs down his breakfast before meandering over to the back door. There, in front of the long pane of glass, he takes a slow, elaborate bath in between long moments of wistful gazing onto the deck. I’m sure he can only see planks of wood and the vines that crawl across the trellis between our house and the neighbors’. But when I lean over to scratch his ears, I can see right into their kitchen. They’re up when I am, pouring milk into coffee, making tiny French meals to go with their serene French personalities. We never seem to catch each other’s eye, but I’m sure they can see right through to our kitchen sink. If they’ve seen me once, they’ve seen me a hundred times, elbow-deep in suds. I am sure they know I have itchy dish-pan hands from October to May.

I’m not sure if the cat is looking for an escape or just a change of scenery. But mornings on the black-and-white tile are calamitous. We trip over each other’s feet as I crack open the can and he anticipates the precise moment when the morsel-packed spoon will hit his ceramic bowl.

I feed him first, to get him out of my hair.